EPL – Episode 4 – AFC beats Fulham, again but it was not easy…Some retrospection on this game

This result has been portrayed variously in the media and the blogosphere – but generally, those not sympathetic to the Arsenal have called it lucky, and nothing to write home about. However, I think it is massively significant.

Firstly, let us agree that there are no easy games in the Premier League. It’s a cliche that’s trotted out when your team has lost or drawn against considered lower opposition. That does not diminish its central truth. There are eleven good players trying their damnedest to negate your superiority. There is a referee who is only human (except, possibly, Mike Riley and Mike Dean), and whose calls on one day might lean your way, and on another, might favour your plucky opponents. There is the capricious bounce of the ball. Critics who call down the Arsenal for only beating four also-ran teams heretofore, conveniently ignore that other aspiring leaders have come up short against these same teams already this season. Have Man City, Liverpool, Man Ure, Chelsea or even the mighty Sp*rs stuttered against the best opposition?

So a well-coached team spearheaded by the excellent Mitrovic was always going to prove difficult. The first half developed as one of those days, of which Arsenal has had many down the years, where possession and movement should have had us out of sight by half time. But the final pass/shot/movement frustrated. In previous seasons, we would have gone behind to a silly goal and hung on to lose luckily 1-0.

Then, early in the second half, we did go behind to a silly goal. At this point, I imagine I was in the majority anticipating the aforementioned anti-climax.

But this new team are made of other stuff. There is a steel, a confidence, a certainty about them – and that is why this was such a significant game. Not only did they keep going, keep ramping up the pressure, keep biting into challenges, keep exchanging crisp passes all over the pitch. They did it with a clarity of purpose that made victory likely. Significantly, doggy-fashion, they came from behind.

Odegaard’s deflected shot may have been lucky, but no more than half a dozen previously blocked shots had been lucky too. Gabriel’s redeeming winner may have been scruffy, but his focus was exemplary.

As to player ratings – well, I’ll give them all “tens”! With some added observations.

Arteta: unfairly criticised for his substitutions, bringing on Eddie for Tierney in the sixtieth minute. Simultaneously reactive and pro-active, and the young forward seized his moment with brio.

Saka: everyone jumping on the bandwagon that asserts he’s not the same player so far this year. Rubbish. He’s being double and triple marked and he’s still frequently wriggling clear to make telling incursions and passes. He has opposition defenders demanding brown underwear.

White: how can anyone be critical of this star? Filling in out of position, he has got better and better with every game. His defence is monumental; his attacking play increasingly varied and telling. He is undroppable – which makes Tomi’s situation interesting.

Xhaka: quite simply re-born. Moving him upfield has liberated him, and (pace LGB and LB) his contributions are a joy to watch.

Obviously, we will soon lose a game. It might be to the dreaded Manure next weekend. But whatever the results, this team are the most enjoyable and exciting Arsenal side for many, many, many a year.

A post by Maxwell The Great

Some add-ons from RC78:

  • Odegaard has been in great form this season so far and it seems the captaincy is giving him wings to do better. He has been great in setting the tempo and finding the good pass. Let us hope he continues on his good form.
  • Our CBs are showing great character and resilience. Saliba is impressing and Gabriel scored after his howler. It is great to rely on the whole team to score goals.
  • We missed Zinchenko a lot vs Fulham in our build up play – he adds another dimension to our game that cannot be denied and it will be hard now for Tierney to earn his starting spot except maybe in Europe and Cup Games but for the EPL, Zinchenko is the starter when fit.
  • While we are able to create chances, we are also giving away a few good ones in each game. We need to somehow become tighter to limit the opposition’s good chances.
  • Jesus’ off the ball movement and runs are great – he is really creating space for his partners as well as creating chances for them.
  • Nketiah had a great impact when he came on.
  • I think that bringing in another DM/CM (Tielemans? Merino?) and FW/Winger (Neto?Pino?) would not be a bad idea

COYG!

10 Responses to EPL – Episode 4 – AFC beats Fulham, again but it was not easy…Some retrospection on this game

  1. RC78 says:

    Also just to let you know that Tavares is indeed having a field day in Ligue 1 but also Balogun. The loan is going to do a world of good for these 2 players but I think that Tavares is not suited for a 4231 but rather a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 so maybe we will sell him at the end of the year but for a very good price and maybe to PSG, too…

    PSG slowly but surely finalizing their squad for this year:

    Donnarumma – Ramos, Marquinhos, Kimpembe – Hakimi, Verratti, Vitinha, Nuno Mendes – Neymar – Messi, Mbappe

    ? – Mukiele, DISASI?, Diallo – Emery, RUIZ, Pereira, Bernat – SOLER – Sarabia, Ekitike

    Soon to be off-loaded: Kurzawa (Fulham), Gueye (Everton), Paredes (Juve) and Icardi (Gala or Fener). I think we should have kept Paredes but oh well…

  2. Maxwell says:

    I must emphasise that I am not sufficiently monomanic to refer to myself as “the great”: someone else has imposed that inappropriate sobriquet!

    Another player I should have commented on: Elneny. So many supporters downplay his contribution, but I think it should be talked up. He is understated and efficient. He recycles well. He anticipates attacks and fills spaces. He hardly ever gives the ball away. Sadly, we learn today that he carried an injury through much of the Fulham game, and may be out for an extended time, which performance highlights his courage and commitment.

    RC – do you still believe that Fofana is better than Saliba? Because I don’t!

  3. RC78 says:

    Fofana is like Van Dijk/Vidic and Saliba is more like Ferdinand/Varane – both are very good but I believe that overall, Fofana is a better defender and Saliba a better player…

  4. Las says:

    Thanks, Maxwell&RC!
    Spot on analysis. We were irresistible against the Cottagers.
    But here is the bad news. MoNeny picked up an injury against Fulham. I think it won’t be a problem against Villa tomorrow but this makes us vulnerable in midfield against Manure at the weekend. I don’t think Lokonga is ready to deputise Partey at this level. And I also don’t think that Tielemans is the answer.

  5. RC78 says:

    Is Partey injured for a while?

    If El Neny and Partey are out, maybe we will be able to see White or Zinchenko in midfield…who knows?

  6. RC78 says:

    Apparently neither Partey nor Zinchenko will play tomorrow…there is a slight chance for Zinchenko for Man Utd but Partey will also be out for Man Utd…

    If you do not fancy Tielemans, maybe Soucek/Coufal/McGinn in the EPL or Merino in the Spanish league?

  7. RC78 says:

    Ruiz and Soler more else confirmed at PSG
    A CB like Skriniar or Disasi still a possibility for PSG
    Question is about Navas now…if Navas leaves, PSG will look for a back-up GK

    Kurzawa almost at Fulham
    Paredes almost at Juve
    Gueye almost at Everton

  8. RC78 says:

    I mentin Gueye, Ruiz and Soler as they were at one point in Arsenal’s radar

  9. allezkev says:

    Good post Maxwell, if the worst thing you get called is ‘the great’ then that’s a result where I come from…

    I’m hearing Elneny has a hamstring injury but not how bad it is…

  10. fred1266 says:

    I agree with you rc if partey out hopefully mikel plays white in cdm position and allow tomi back at Rb, this would also help saka so he can no longer be double team since he would make over laying runs

    As regards to the people who say we have beaten no one, u don’t really need to beat the better teams to win the league am sure if we beat everyone we supposed to beat and and not the big guns so 15 x 3 x 2 since we played them twice that 90 points surely that would be close to winning the league most times

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